'Intelligence' and Race (was Re: Invention of the white race // Rakesh on eugenics)

Charles Brown charlesb at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Mon Jun 1 06:45:45 PDT 1998

>>> Jim heartfield writes:
In message <v03102802b19790da1413@[]>, Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu> writes
>Further, why even _ask_ questions such as, 'Do different races have
>different levels of intelligence?' I think that racism is inherent in
>questions like the above.

>>I agree with Yoshie's general drift. Certainly 'intelligence quotient'
is a fetishised category (because it implies the sum of intelligence is fixed from birth, whereas most pedagogy is premissed on the opposite view, that intelligence is taught).

However, there is such a thing as intelligence and I do not think we ought to be surprised that it is distributed differentially between social classes and 'races'. It stands to reason that if you exercise your wits they will get broader, and the conditions of wage slavery or racial oppression are not the best conditions in which to acquire the art of thinking.>>

Charles : To survive class and racial oppression takes exercise of wits. "The art of thinking" , what is that ? I'd say working class activities take intelligence, wits and thinking, but do not train in "pencil-paper" skills. Perhaps the difference is abstract and concrete thinking.

(That said, the bourgeoisie can be pretty stupid because of the limits that their social position puts upon imagining any order in which they are not kings).

There is a debate in Britain about testing in schools which teachers, especially those in areas of high afro-carribean and Bengali intakes, oppose. The teachers' want the test results to be 'weighted' - meaning that before they are published the results are skewed in favour of those schools with a high immigrant intake.

On the face of things the teachers are acting from good anti-racist motivations. The weighted figures would, they say, show how children are performing taking into account their dsadvantages. But to my mind it seems that the effect is to minimise the way that schools are failing black students. Supressing the record that some racial groups underperform only has the effect of allowing the teaching profession to pretend that they are doing right by these studnets when in fact they are failing them.

Notably most asian (that's Indian and Pakistani in Britain) students are, after doing badly in the seventies and early eighties, now performing as well as or better than their white fellow students. Testing IQ might be pseudo-science, but tests and certificates are a necessary part of any education system.

In message <s57195e2.027 at ci.detroit.mi.us>, Charles Brown <charlesb at CNCL .ci.detroit.mi.us> writes
>Although, in general these days I polemicize against structuralism and other
>post-modernist critcisms of Marxism. have you heard of Levi-Strauss' _Les
>Pensees Sauvage_ ? The salutory aspect of that book is its argument for the
>rationality and intelligence of non-literate culture. It could probably
>eventually be reduced to pencil and paper like dancing etc., but the burden of
>the fact that it cannot be now should be borne by the measurers of intelligence.

Jim: I think this argument is just an evasion, really.

Charles: Evading what ? That schools are failing students ? This book is not about non-whites in modern Britain. It is about hunting and gathering societies described in ethnographies, societies without writing. Les Pensee Sauvage is not about Afro-Carribean culture in Brixton., which is highly literate. This book argues that non-literate people have just as much ability to think abstractly, but it does not include Afro-Caribs in Brixton as non-literate.

Jim: It's a bit like where my mother used to teach in Brixton (a relatively high concentration of Afro-Carribean children). Parents' complained bitterly that teachers only wanted to know their sons and daughters on sports day, and would dragoon them into the steel band, on the (false) belief that they had some sensuous 'concrete' abilities that white pupils lacked. Most black mothers wanted their children to get a good qualification, but the school's prejudice was that only white people had the abstract reasoning to handle those skills.

The minute black students had any control over their own choices, when they left school and went to sixth form college and chose their own courses, they would all apply to do computing and accounting, however furiously the carrers officer promoted art and community care.

Charles : What I say on Les Pensees Sauvage does not contradict the demands of any group for aquiring skills requiring abstract reasoning. The book argues that ALL humans, even in preliterate societies let alone in liteate societies, have abstract reasoning ability.

The main point I was making was that concrete reasoning requires "INTELLIGENCE", if that concept is not too contaminated by its history, as Yoshie implies I believe.

Charles Brown

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